Foes of tobacco use dread pot laws approval.
The state smoking rate is second lowest in the US health officials say.
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California’s decision to legalize marijuana was touted as a victory or those who argued that the state needed assistant to decriminalize, regulate and Texas.
But the new law, approved by the voters November 8, also could be a boon to the tobacco industry at a time when cigarette smoking is down and cigarette companies are looking for ways to expand their market, accordind to researchers in the Los Angeles county and around the state.
They warn that unless the state proceeds carefully, legalization of marijuana for recreational use could grow back some of the greens California has made in inducing the use of tobacco.
The question will likely be a hot topic of conversation today when the America Cancer Society promotes it’s great American smoke out event, during which people will nationwide encourage friends and family to quit smoking.
“There is a concern that there could be a potential read normalization of smoking”, said Michael Ong, associate professor at UCLA’s David Griffin school of medicine.
Ong said it will depend on how the initiative is implemented, whether officials follow through on the regulations, and how involved public health officials are with it.
California’s adult smoking rate is the second lowest in the country, at 11.6%, according to the California Department of Public Health. The smoking rate dropped by more than 50% between 1988 and 2014, cutting health care costs and reducing tobacco related diseases, according to the department.
The headway against smoking over the past few decades is due to a combination of factors, including tobacco taxes, laws restricting where people can smoke and broad-based media campaigns and programs to help people quit. Despite the decline in smoking, the use of e-cigarettes has increased dramatically over the past few years, with nearly 10% of the adult ages 18 to 24 now using them, according to the department.
Another ballot initiative pass by voters last week could push the smoking rate even lower, experts said. Proposition 56 adds two dollars per pack to the tax on cigarettes and increases taxes on e-cigarettes that contain nicotine and other other tobacco products.
The money will help pay for health care and increase funding for tobacco control and prevention.
The marijuana initiative, proposition 64, allows adults aged 21 and over to grow, buy and possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use. It also regulates recreational marijuana businesses and imposes taxes that will help pay for drug education and prevention programs.
Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, pediatrics professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, said she is concerned that there may not be enough education and prevention written into the proposition, especially targeted at the youth.
Marijuana already is the most widely used illegal drug among adolescents. Many young people consider it, and blunts (marijuana rolled with a tobacco leaf Wrapper), to be more socially excepted bowl and less risky than cigarettes, according to a recent study co-authored by Halpern-Flesher. The study also found that youths who saw messages about the benefits of marijuana are more likely to use it.
From the tobacco industry’s point of view, marijuana could serve as a “smoke inhalation trainer” and thus become a gateway to tobacco use, said Robert K. Jackler, A professor at the Stanford School of Medicine.
Jackler, who researches tobacco advertising, Said tobacco and marijuana are similarly marked – as products to help people relax and and ease their stress. “There is tremendous over-lap potential,” he said.
Tobacco companies could easily tried to exploit that to enter the market, Jackler said. They already have enormous influence on state laws and regulations and could try to open up dispensaries and make marijuana another one of their products.
“The tobacco industry is always looking for replacement products because, at least in America, smoking is down,” he said. “This will give them a new entry into the market. They are best equipped to exploit this market opportunity.”
Stanton Glantz, a professor at San Francisco School of Medicine, believes that even as a newly approved tobacco tax further reduces California smoking rate, legalized marijuana will help sustain the tobacco market.
He said he expected to see mass marketing and branding of marijuana over time.
Along with some therapeutic benefits of marijuana, there are also health risks, Glantz said. “The likely costs that are going to be incurred by all the marijuana-induced diseases don’t come close to being covered by the taxes that are written in the proposition 64” he warned.
The initiative should have included higher taxes, warning labels, and provisions to keep demand low and broad-based education campaign like there is on the tobacco, Glantz argued. “The ideal situation is where it’s legal so nobody is thrown in jail, but nobody wants to buy it.”
Marijuana is still illegal under federal law.